Social protection neglected?

JUST A CALL


Social protection has become a cornerstone of Namibian policies since independence.

However, the social safety net privileges some vulnerable sections of the society and leaves others out.

What can social welfare actually achieve, other than mitigate the shortcomings of the economy? How can Namibian society protect its poor, its unemployed?

The huge socio-economic disparities are largely a reflection of colonialism and apartheid, but also of the class stratification that has taken place in post-independent Namibia.

Namibia is rich in economic and social potential yet a large portion of the population is poor and faces chronic economic insecurity. Namibia is also a country with one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world.

The huge socio–economic disparities are largely a reflection of colonialism and apartheid, but also of the class stratification that has taken place in post-independent Namibia.

At independence, the white minority owned 90% of wealth in this country. It has come to light that that has slowly changed and that the black minority from the majority after 21 years are looting public resources and accumulating wealth at a rapid speed as they now own 65% of cash flow in Namibia.

For several decades, the conventional wisdom was that economic growth would result in lower levels of poverty.

It was also believed that addressing poverty by simple means such as giving people money would be a waste and ineffectual and that it was better to wait for growth to “trickle down” and eventually lift the poor out of poverty.

However, 21 years after independence this has not happened in Namibia and therefore we need to look at new ways of addressing poverty.

Social protection is not economic or political populism. It is, by far, the most effective method available to reduce destitution and poverty among the population and citizens of Africa and they deserve it.

After all, they are the people who vote in current governments and, in doing so, expect their governments to lead them into prosperity.

Is there a reason not to consider the Basic Income Grant system as an example of pilot study done in Namibia? It would be wise to borrow ideas from other countries in the world at large and face the challenge for the good of the people and Africa.

On the shoulders of the African government leaders rests a bequeathed and conferred authority and responsibility to govern and lead African peoples. (Kariuki, JM, Sociology Department, University of Natal Durban, South Africa)

About two thirds of all Namibians live below the poverty datum line. Furthermore, Namibia has the most unequal distribution of income in the whole world. The reduction of inequality - one of the greatest legacies of colonialism and apartheid - is not only a justice issue, but also has been identified as a prerequisite for economic growth and investment in developing countries.

Human beings living under bridges and searching dumps for their daily bread are not doing so by choice, but are forced to resort to such actions by an unjust economic order that prevents them from making a living in a dignified way.

A solution must thus address the structural injustices, which perpetuate the ever-increasing unemployment and poverty rates. The trend throughout the years shows that unemployment is rising, inequality is increasing and poverty is worsening.

The findings suggest that the introduction of a BIG could have a powerful positive effect on similar communities all over Namibia. It could help the Government meet its aspirations for the people, and cut social and economic deprivation.

In particular, the BIG would have an immediate and positive effect on people’s health and nutrition, and contribute to the effectiveness of the ARV treatment.

The BIG cannot solve all social and economic problems faced by the inhabitant of Otjivero-Omitara. Expecting the BIG to become a panacea for all problems would be unrealistic. Issues like unemployment and abuse of alcohol cannot be solved by the BIG alone but it was impressive to note how the local community tried to tackle these challenges through its own BIG committee.

The BIG has a positive impact and if introduced on a national level could help the country meet its commitments: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality Increase in clinic visits, reduction in malnutrition, better nutrition of pregnant women, improve maternal health increase in clinic visits, better nutrition for pregnant women, combat HIV/aids, malaria and other diseases.

BIG has complemented and strengthened Government efforts to provide ARVs; ensure environmental sustainability; better access to electricity and potentially less reliance on firewood.

A national BIG would have several medium to long-term benefits. Based on the developments in Otjivero-Omitara, it is save to argue that the BIG will reduce poverty and unemployment, increase economic activities and productivity, and improve educational outcomes and the health status of most Namibians. (Claudia Haarmann, etal, Basic Income Grant Pilot Project Assessment Report, September 2008).

Conclusion

Credit should be given that government has done very well and has tried its best as compared to other countries, but the fact that the political economy of Namibia has not changed and that there is no really middle class is either you are super rich or poor is proving to be a problem.

More needs to be done to address the social welfare matters. Unions are undermined and those that have in the years had lead the unions have betrayed the cause of the unions and sought political career and forget about the masses they represented.

The Government needs to do more in terms of social welfare responsibility to the nation that elected them into power, of which I am one of them.

It remains to be seen whether the discovery of Oil and Gas in Namibia will be a blessing or curse. It is my sincere hope as a student of public management that new proposed tax and levy on Namibian resources will actually not be used to bail out non-functioning state owned enterprises and be actually used to bring services closer to the people of Namibia and uplift them from poverty. It is also my hope that this oil will not only be for few elites but for the majority.

With regards to education, Namibia should have gone Sweden’s way that did not open up private schools until public schools were perfected. That should perhaps been done in Namibia, because right now education has become commodified and it is unacceptable.

Earlier in the year, Prime Minister Nahas Angula admitted the failure with education in an interview with Prime Focus monthly magazine. The Premier said he only has one major regret in his whole life.
“I regret that a decision was taken during my term as the Minister of Education to split the education sector in 1995 where a Ministry of Basic Education and a Ministry of Higher Education. That should never have happened. “There was no more central planning of education; people were doing their own thing without coordination. There was massive polarity affecting the learning population and as Minister of Education, I had to call the World Bank to help us define a common program for education which ended up giving birth to Education and Training Sector Improvement Program(ETSIP),” noted Angula, to what he also described as the source of the acne bedevilling the current education standards.

I hope that Namibia will not go the Nigerian way on dependence on oil and create conflicts and develop the Dutch disease but rather, the Norway way.

I would have preferred that Epangelo Mining owns the only license to explore both for oil and gas and partner with international partners and then after a certain period be the only institution to have the license.

As Namibia has shown to be a different African country in many cases and done better than other countries both in Sadc and Africa one can only hope for the best and that as Prime Minister Right Honourable Nahas Angula, says Namibia must learn from other African countries in order to come up with more perfect and nation orientated developmental concept that will uplift the standards of living of its people.

Lot Ndamanomhata is student of Bachelor of Public Management at the University of Namibia; He is also the Station Manager of Unam Radio. He writes in his own capacity. PF